PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – For decades, the biggest threat on our highways was the drunk driver.
But in recent years – it’s the distracted driver putting you and your family most at risk.
“In 2019, distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the country, that’s an average of nine deaths a day,” remarks Jenifer Moore with AAA.
That is a 10 percent increase from 2018 when one out of five people who died in crashes involving a distracted driver weren’t even in a vehicle.
AAA says texting and driving is just as deadly as driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
“Drivers can experience a hangover effect and that’s basically where the mind can stay distracted for up to 27 seconds after using smartphones,” says Moore.
Since 2015, the state of West Virginia has spent nearly 1.5 million dollars combating distracted driving, explaining why you shouldn’t text and drive, talk on the cell phone while driving, or talk to friends in the car with you.
Distracted driving also includes things like putting on makeup in the car.
A popular distracted driving behavior officers see is West Virginians riding around with their pets.
“Not in your lap, not on your shoulder, not in your face. That is distracted driving, so you have to be very careful with that,” comments Sheriff Bobby Eggleton with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department.
Sadly twenty percent of the fatalities in 2018 involved a distracted driver hitting a pedestrian, someone riding a bike or a victim doing something else outside the vehicle.
“They’re going to write you a citation, so please be aware,” says Sheriff Eggleton.
The consequences don’t come cheap. Citations typically cost more than 100 dollars.
“Don’t just stop doing it in April, stop doing it all the time!” comments Sheriff Eggleton.
While local law enforcement encourage drivers to use hands-free options when calling or texting, neither West Virginia, Ohio or Kentucky have mandatory hands-free laws on the books.